When you wake up to the sun coming through the window, clear blue skies, the warmth of it on your skin, it’s a good start to the day. Sunlight is good: we talk about the sun coming out from behind the clouds as redemption, as a sign of clarity and illumination (both literal and figurative). When our view is clouded, we lack perspective or any kind of distance vision. Clouds obscure, bring the rain, darken our mood, whilst the light burns it away, gives insight.
We call someone ‘sunshine‘ if they are happy. The light on the trees as i ride the train home tonight makes the trees glow green. It brings an intensity of colour and a sharply delineated shadow. Light: good. Sunshine: good.
There are certain metaphors around learning that i tend to repeat: i talk about learning as a journey, use geographical concepts for navigation, talk about ‘discovery‘. It’s an ancient notion of turning over the stone to see what lies beneath (an early version of todays ‘clickbait‘: if you don’t turn them all, you’ll never know which celebrity dated whom). We like to discover, the shine the light, to banish the shadows.
I’m reflecting on learning: both the external aspects of discovery, the journey itself, as measured in miles and time, and the internal one. The internal journey is the ‘sense making‘, the reflection, the consideration of how ‘what you tell me‘ impacts on ‘what i already know to be true‘.
Funny that: even i write that phrase, i think back to when i first used it a few years ago in a book about learning. Even for something as apparently simple as ‘how we learn, my understanding continues to evolve as i travel further and think more deeply (or maybe think in wider and wiser company).
That was learning in itself: sometimes you learn by shining the light, but sometimes someone else shines it for you. We can live experience ourselves, or hear about it vicariously through stories.
Sunlight suffuses the forest: deep shadows exist as i rattle past as speed, but shafts of sunlight penetrate through, lancing down to the forest floor itself. The light abides.
Sometimes the more we learn, the less we know. As i find myself reflecting on, writing about and exploring ever more facets of the Social Age, it’s not lost on me the irony of how interconnected it all is. I see tantalising glimpses of understanding: how culture is co-created by people, how it changes, how we learn to change it, how it’s facilitated by technology, how we need fairness and equality to gain traction, how we use stories to amplify our intent and to invest ourselves in learning.
Whilst the sensible thing may be to focus a laser sharp light into one tiny corner, the temptation is to see how wide our view can be. Can you be satisfied with one tiny point of clarity, or do you crave for the panorama? Is your journey linear or rambling. For me, it’s about the journey, about the emergent views along the way.
If we restrict our thinking (or if restriction is imposed upon us) then the light is limited. The ignorance that lurks in the shadows crowds in. It’s not that seeing the light gives us all our answers: as Terry Pratchett once said, it may simply elevate our ignorance to a higher level, a new false summit in view. But it’s not always about the summit: sometimes it’s the journey that counts, the view as we travel.
That’s what drives me, and what gives the permission to explore where my feet take me: it’s not a weakness, but rather an uninhibited curiosity.
And from the journey we learn: the whole notions of Scaffolded Social Learning and co-creation of meaning come out of that reflective process. You can’t just travel to see the view, you have to reflect to understand what the light has illuminated.
Medieval monks used to ‘illuminate‘ manuscripts: filling them with beautiful, stylised letters and images, in red and gold, the colours of the sun. Illuminating knowledge.
The processes of learning, of change, of writing and reflection, of sharing and collaborating, these are processes of illumination, of ourselves and others.
And from it we can learn to structure the journey: to learn how to be more effective, to do things better, to shine the light.
If we have a permission to think differently, we will achieve differently. If we give just a chink of space, the light will get through: this is why we find co-creative spaces are so dynamic if we give them just enough provocation, just enough support. You don’t have to light everything up yourself, just open the curtains a crack and let the light flood in.
And sometimes sit back and bask in the warmth of it, taking time to reflect on the journey so far.